Happy Friday! Sorry to miss last week - I’m not a very prolific writer. I think it’ll actually be rare for me to have a weekly post, but here’s a bi-weekly update!
Why do I care so much about what I eat?
People close to me know that it’s an adventure for me to order food at restaurants. They also know I have reasons for my choices, although I tend to spare them the boring details. I could write a 50-page manifesto of my diet and nutrition plan, but that would be of very little use to you because we’re all vastly different and we all generally have different goals. However, one goal I believe we can all share is lowering inflammation. We all have to do the R&D for ourselves to figure out what works for us, but chronic inflammation should be universally avoided.
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to eliminate an initial cause of cell injury. It clears out dead cells and damaged tissues, and initiates tissue repair. The immune system becomes overactive and destructive to your healthy cells. Rhonda Patrick likened this effect to “setting off a nuclear bomb to kill a cockroach.” There’s unnecessary destruction all over. Chronic inflammation also causes difficulty in absorbing nutrients and damages normal cells. (There are many other effects, Time Article) According to this study and many others, inflammation is the primary driver of aging, and the benefits of minimizing chronic inflammation range from minor to major. Minor benefits would be improving our skin health, while major would be avoiding depression and diseases of aging. In the case of autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, inflammation can be out of control and activated without a threat to work against. This type of chaos may be involved in your immune system destroying the myelin in your brain in MS.
So… How do I respond to all of that?
Since diet is one of the primary sources of inflammation, we have an opportunity to face it head on every time we choose what to eat. There are many edible and inedible things that we put into our bodies that drive inflammation. In addition to food sensitivities, we have trillions of microbes in our guts that need to be in balance to keep inflammation in check because the gut is at the root of the majority of the inflammation in our bodies. Our immune system and central nervous system function are also dependent on gut health. The Gut-Brain Axis is discussed widely in the health science community lately. Dr. Perlmutter says, “new research has shown that healthy, fat-rich diets have a myriad of benefits to the brain on the macro-scale in brain function, and benefits on the micro-scale in terms of inflammation.” Whitepaper on the subject here.
Knowing you can control such a significant amount of inflammation through dietary choices opens up an incredible opportunity to heal yourself.
This is a great place to start, and it's why I am pretty strict about what I put in my body. I feel like a smart plan to start figuring things out, the Wahls Protocol, is appropriate because it eliminates common sources of inflammation in order to give you a break from them. Then you can reintroduce these foods later to test their effects on you. Some foods really don’t ever need to be eaten, but that’s a rabbit hole to go down another time. It’s best to keep it simple at the beginning and learn as you go. Incremental changes got me from 2011 to 2016 in good health through nutrition.
Dr. Darya Rose would probably call me a Foodist. It kind of sounds like a religion, and I guess that isn't too far off, but really I feel like I’m following the classic advice of Hippocrates to "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." It’s worth the effort, and I think my good health is proof. There are many more interventions for inflammation out there, and I’m sure I’ll be discussing many of them in the future.
Here’s a taste of a few key items to pay attention to or seek out:
Add: Turmeric (supplement curcumin), cod liver oil, vitamin d, coconut oil, grass fed meat and grass fed butter
Subtract: Sugar, vegetable oil, gluten
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